Cast of Characters
What follows are a couple dozen brief, fun-loving, light-hearted descriptions of the individuals that set out each day to do good works and change things for the better. Meet anyone of the people below and you’ve met a work in progress that is truly remarkable. Plan a visit in the near future and check out these wonderful folks who co-create each day from start to finish: No day is the same.
Montessori Cindy our new staff member!
It seems that good fortune has blessed LES once again. We have always found that the best teachers come along at just the right time. Our dear friend Cindy, longtime Peace Abbey member, equestrian mom and lover of all that LES and the Peace Abbey have been up to, comes to our program with the Montessori spirit and vision. She enters with decades of experience in the Montessori peace education tradition; a mother, activist and creator of programs and projects that will engage, inspire and direct us to fulfilling experiences that are in the tradition of 47 years at the Life Experience School. Cindy’s gift to us is being mindfully unwrapped daily as she helps shape our days in ways that bear the mark of a teacher who understands the importance of imbuing meaning into what we do, say and feel. Welcome aboard the peace train.
Sadie in Meg’s arms The newest member at LES is our adorable, little Sadie June, Chris and Zuzana’s second child. She has recently been hanging out with us two days a week and loves being cared for by her new Aunts and Uncles. She is smiling and discovering that she can move things by touching them, but little does she know she is moving everyone’s heart as she is about as adorable as it gets. All three, grown Randa children, Chris, Mikey and Abbey grew up at LES – now it’s the grandkid’s turn. As her big brother Charlie (age 5) has discovered, there are few places this special to be learning the ropes of life. Continuous updates on this new member!
Matty When this young man joined us it was like having a future Nobel Peace Prize winner in our midst. He is genuinely interested in what others do, say, think and feel and he is ever so bright and knowledgeable; he is the most avid reader at LES and is rarely found without a book. Matty likes board games, most movies, but not those that are violent, loves the song “last kiss” by Pearl Jam, but also likes classical and jazz. Matty loves to watch golf on TV with his dad, play golf with his Aunt Mary in Maine, loves his mom’s cooking and looks forward to going out on the boat with his family. Matty is wonderfully conscientious — this is especially so when it comes to animals, and he really loves to read about animals too. He has a great sense of humor, though never at the expense of anyone’s feelings. Matty is a reminder to treat people gently.
Matty works with Kenny and Julie at the Millis Post Office delivering mail on Lavender Street. When it comes to that one person we can count on to be in touch with how best to treat one another or a situation, it’s Matty, our MVP (Most Valuable Peacemaker). Like the mailman’s motto says: “Neither snow nor rain nor heat nor gloom of night stays these couriers from the swift completion of their appointed rounds”, though in Matty’s case, besides the mail, it’s delivering a smile, a gentle compliment and an innate understanding of the importance of working to make the world a better place by being an example of gentleness.
Eric is the most recent to arrive at LES and it is as though he’s been here all along. His quick wit takes a conversation and flips it inside out and on its ear with ideas and insights that are uniquely his own. Eric and Phil are the most sports-oriented of the group, though they have stiff competition with several other sports enthusiasts here. Eric loves comedy movies, enjoys board games and hanging out with friends. He not only enjoys playing Wii, he’s amazingly skilled and competitive so don’t think you can beat him without years of practice. Eric knows his music and especially loves rock with Bon Jovi and Taylor Swift topping the list. In addition, he is a self-proclaimed “king of selfies”.
Though undeniably a people person, Eric likes to focus in on office work, assist with paying bills and keeping in shape working out at home. He is also renowned for shredding a mountain of documents in a blink of an eye. For those who like spicy/hot foods like Matty and Lewis, this new arrival doesn’t blink an eye over a mountain of jalapenos coming his way. Eric likes to care for animals at the animal shelter, deliver food to needy members of the community and assist those who need a helping hand. Eric offers much promise to what might be imagined for the next project here at LES, where making a difference in the lives of others is what it’s all about.
Kate, Anna and Little Phil lead the Book Club on Thursday mornings with selections that everyone agrees upon. The one unanimous agreement, however, is that everyone loves it when Kate and her children enter the building, whether to discuss books, discuss what’s happening in our lives or just be part of our sense of extended family, to which the Schells keep adding adorableness.
Phil, little sister Anna and Kate attend Mass on Thursday mornings at St. Thomas Church which is where we met them and where these two little ones provide sound effects during the most solemn moments to remind everyone that it’s the kids that matter most. Watching them come down the aisle for communion is the highlight of the Mass for our gang and most everyone in attendance.
Lauren is a terrific new staff member who magnifies what’s best in each of us, whether being creative during art projects, playing Wii games or discussing current events. She is also Allison’s sister which makes her all the more instrumental in the goings-on.
Lauren is educated in New York City in the world of art and animation and reared in a family of special needs love. She is involved in both in-home and school activities and is truly an engaged artist in the field of special education. Her leadership during daily group discussions reflects a refined, yet evolving skill and talent in stimulating everyone to reflect meaningfully on what is being discussed which she then summarizes at the conclusion of the gathering. Lauren’s gentle and subtle style of educating and inspiring students contributes immeasurably to the cohesion and sense of extended family at our school. Plan to visit LES at the end of the day for the discussion group and you’ll see what we mean.
Evelyn is a young lady with a unique sense of humor and a curiosity about things that lead discussions in unexpected directions. She enjoys art projects that are colorful as she meticulously creates banners for members of the community that need cheering up. Ev can be found playing Solitaire on her iPad and Uno card games around the kitchen table … and she seems more often than not to win the game to the disappointment of others, especially the teachers. She likes war (not the real thing), loves playing rummy cube with her dad, loves animals, really enjoys talking about movies and TV shows likes Survivor, Wild Doc. Caring for animals at the local shelter is a favorite place for her to volunteer. The Wizard of Oz is her favorite show; previously, in her inimitable and clever way, she portrayed the Wicked Witch of the West in her performance years ago.
Evelyn has a uniquely astute personality and way of being, especially when she speaks Ubbi Dubbi, the secret language of Zoom TV. Talk about a tongue-twisting way to communicate. Guess you have to be left handed to speak it well. She joins LES on Tuesdays for Yoga and works with Lauren on projects both in her home and at LES.
Allison If you ever questioned whether there are angels in the world, drop in for Yoga class on Tuesdays or Morning Meeting when the Blessing Bowl gets passed and you’ll instantly spot one. Allison does yoga the way everyone wishes they could, and does so as our newest yogi. Like all angels, Allison loves to be involved in the lives of people she feels close to. She loves everything Disney, enjoys singing, dancing, cooking and baking and can be found in the midst of everything throughout the day — and boy does she love the school dogs. And if you’re the least bit interested in learning the “Art of Mindful Eating”, no need to travel to India or follow a guru, just pull up a chair next to Allison during lunch and be sure to turn off your “not-so-smartphone” so you have the patience to be mindful. Next, forget about what you think is so important and get ready to eat the way Allison does — mindfully tasting flavors and experiencing the texture of each morsel and the quality of each bite. Her mantra: “Eat slowly, very slowly.” Try eating at her pace and you’ll find you can miss your next meditation class and not regret it. Allison is our newest student who joins us two days a week from Medway. She is a gentle messenger of loving kindness if ever there was one.
Matt arrived at LES having seen us at Isabella’s Italian Deli, where his family cooks up the most delicious lunches this side of Napoli! Throughout the week, Matt leads the group in exercising both body and mind through activities that require physical involvement, balance, eye-hand coordination, keen thinking … and at times, a competitive spirit. His sense of humor, quick wit, insight, and desire to “change the world one person at a time” makes him the right person to seek out when looking for a moment to shine. Matt is there to lead recreational activities with that certain something that makes the moment come alive. Like the children’s book, Where’s Waldo, throughout the day you often hear people saying “Where’s Matt?” He’s the only person who tries to be in two places at once and sometimes manages to pull it off.
Matt is in his second year as a member of the LES staff and everyone loves it when he is here because when he is, there’s more laughter and fun and good times to be had. Matt is a young man with enormous talent in working with people. But where’s Matt?
Mary is that one person at LES that most things seem to revolve around, and that’s a really good thing. What Mary thinks, what she says and is interested in, and how she goes about things influences everyone and the course of the day. Her soft spoken, intelligent and charismatic personality centers the otherwise rambunctious tempo of the day’s activities at LES.
“Service to others” is Mary’s motto as she is the Friday morning lector at St. Thomas Church across the street from LES. She also started her own candle making business named “Lights of Hope”. She sells her all natural soy candles in the community and contributes half of the proceeds to the N.E. Epilepsy Foundation. Mary visits St. Patrick’s nursing home in Framingham to brighten the day for our dear friend Edna, presented the Peace Abbey Courage of Conscience Award to Fiona Jensen at the Old Quaker Meetinghouse in Sandwich, MA. She gifted a full-size statue of Mother Teresa to her parish, St. Mary’s parish in Dedham, MA, and is presently refinishing the statue of Madonna and Child for Holy Family Church in Duxbury. She is a member of the Special Peace Corps and works on litter control projects in the community.
Like the early rock ‘n roll 45 rpm record spindle, Mary keeps things at LES centered. She is charming, thoughtful, kind and personifies what the spirit of LES is all about. We count on her to help maintain harmony.
Mary has taken on the role of assistant, webmaster, so look forward to some thoughtful content and beautiful photographs that reflect her sensibility both on this website and our facebook page. Her insights and understanding of human nature make her a wonderful peer counselor. And if you are visiting LES for the first time, she will be that one person you will gravitate towards upon your return. She is home base for everyone at LES!
Chris and Zuzana Little Charlie Randa now has a little sister named Sadie … and his household has become the “Neighbor Family” at the Life Experience School providing evening and weekend staff living right across the street. Just like on Brush Hill Road in Sherborn where Chris grew up with the students as his uncles and aunts, he now passes this wonderful experience on to Lewis and Meg’s grandchildren Charlie and Sadie. Nothing quite like having a fun-loving five-year-old and a baby in our midst — with the best caregivers ever to love them up.
Richie If ever there was a guy who thinks of others nonstop and works nonstop to get things done, it’s this workhorse from Onset. Go ahead, ask him to help you do a task, then be prepared to get out of his way ‘cuz this guy means business. Thoughtful beyond belief, ask him to remind you to do something and you better plan on doing it ’cause he’s not going to let you change your mind. Richie has started his own car detailing service which is in high demand with the Fire Department where he also takes care of the Fire Fighters Memorial garden. Going to Home Depot and Rocky’s hardware, mowing the lawn and caring for the dogs are among his favorite jobs, though anything that pleases another person is his delight.
Richie is the maintenance man if ever there was one. Besides lawn care, he shovels snow, vacuums, cleans windows, scrubs counters, stacks wood and will be there for you when you need a helping hand. It’s been said that Richie is the most helpful, loving person that ever graced the goings on at LES and how could it be otherwise. He comes from a family whose DNA is “service to others” and every way possible. This guy is loving service in motion.
Patty is a personal assistant to Phil Lussier. She came to know Phil through his mother Betsy … they have been friends for almost 40 years. Patty came to work with Phil after retiring from teaching in Lowell. She enjoys power walking, yoga, reading, going to movies and spending time with her family. Patty lives in Lowell with her husband Jack, she has 2 sons, Andrew and Steven and 2 dogs, Sadie and Bella.
Patty radiates joy and happiness so when she arrives, everyone draws near. Everyone really loves Patty because she makes them/us feel so lovable. She is so awesome and we’ve noticed that she can’t leave the school without finding Mary for a hug before she heads out the door.
Bobby Everyone would agree that this guy is a blast to be around and can be counted on to oversee any task. He especially loves yoga and going to Human Rights meetings. Bobby works at the animal shelter where he cares for dogs and cats, served as the manager of the Peace Abbey Gift Shop for 15 years, works at Pretty Paws across the street and is the Human Rights representative for the School. Of all the people here, Bobby ranks at the top for being the most heartfelt and gentle-spirited. To sit next to him during Morning Meeting at the Peacemakers Table at is to get as close to St. Francis as one is allowed in this lifetime. Being with Bobby is a form of therapy if you’re having a less than perfect day. His gentleness and loving nature make you believe peace in the world is possible.
Cal Quite an accomplished baker, Cal and can be found at the stove each morning baking horse treats called Cupid’s Cookies by the dozens with his business partner Lizzy. He is also quite a culinary instructor as he can teach the fine art of baking to anyone interested in paying close attention to his choreographed moves around the school kitchen center island. With a key chain replete with meaningful symbols and keys dangling from his belt, Cal makes a fashion statement for various causes with what he wears, though these days he prefers sporting his Spiderman T-shirt. He also works at Isabella’s Italian Deli and loves it. Cal continues to love riding horses at August Farm in Holliston during warm weather. When it comes to caring for horses, Cal can really be counted on. He is also the “go to” tech guy for Wii games system and video/DVD programming. He has a knack for figuring out how to connect things to the TV.
Ruthanne Always calm, collected and instructive, she is there each day to help everyone better understand how best to handle an issue or conundrum — and is fast with great ideas for projects, possessing a knack for coming up with terrific student-run business concepts. Baking and cooking with our group are among her greatest joys — and making sure everything falls into place with relationships, jobs in the community and Special Peace Corps projects (and anything in between) define her trademark. Now a Grandmother, Ruthanne shares her loving energy, skills, and talents with everyone equally and consistently, each and every day but stores up grandmother love for her little ones. Her involvement at the School dates back to 1975 at the farm on Brush Hill Road in Sherborn. Together with Meg, she handles the duties and responsibilities of working with state agencies and with the families of our individuals. Bringing out the best in this little extended-family is what she is all about … and so much more.
Ian Since his arrival in 2010, Ian injected a heightened level of appreciation for music and sports and, get this, wrestling. That’s right, he even got Lewis to watch a few matches on Youtube which no one thought was possible. His father is a rock and roll star (with Max Creek) and as they say, the apple doesn’t fall far from tree. Ian’s voice and style of singing come through on special occasions like at Boston College, Holliston High and whenever he is called upon to set the mood for an event. His first visit to a school activity was when he participated in a protest at the entrance of the Boston offices of Goldman Sachs where he helped stuff a 9-foot statue of Gandhi in the revolving doors in protest to what Wall Street did to the economy. Having sampled what the School is all about, he then applied to attend. Ian loves going to Music Go Round in Natick where he sings and learns the retail music business through osmosis. He sports around in his blue power chair that has given him a new sense of freedom. Check him out on facebook. He is a gem in every respect. And to this day, the folks from Occupy Boston will remember this young lad who sang his heart out in front of the statue of Gandhi. If charisma had weight, Ian would weigh a ton.
Lizzy Our star equestrian and Special Olympian has won a wall full of medals and received the special blessing of Tommy Smith, ’68 Mexico City Gold Medalist. She also bakes Cupid’s Cookies with Cal and enjoys singing lessons with Ted. Her smile and wonderfully positive energy brighten our days. Lizzy has worked at numerous jobs, including Temple Emanuel in Newton and the Clothes Closet in Holliston. She loves overnights at the Lavender House and going out to dinner at Victory Lanes across the street. Always smiling and happy-go-lucky, Lizzy is the sweet spot here at the Life Experience School. Ask anyone and that’s what they will tell you. It’s all about Lizzy and her spunky energy and whimsical way. She is joy personified and happens to be a wizard on her iPad and enjoys face time with close friends.
Corty If you haven’t seen Corty around, you must have your head in the sand. From Quincy to Sherborn to Millis and beyond, there are Corty sightings and legions of Corty Fans. And how could it be otherwise as this guy’s personality is so magnetic that people will drop what they’re doing to touch base with him, then leave the conversation with a smile both on their face and in their heart. Being one of the first students at the School in 1972, along with his spiritual brother Paul, Corty is living proof that the Life Experience School nurtures and celebrates and embraces those qualities of heart and mind that matter most. He is charming, kind, smart as they come, and loves telling stories about his life that seem impossible. For those who live in the area, you may have seen him on the evening news or in the Boston Globe when he, along with others at the School, handcuffed himself to a chain that blocked off the front entrance of the Statehouse in an attempt to get the name of the agency DMR changed. Well, 10 years later, the name got changed and Corty was honored at the very Statehouse where he was busted. This guy is definitely the coolest disability rights activist around. Ask his friends at the restaurant/pub across the street what they think of him and you’ll see a twinkle in their eye, a grin on their face and a slight nod of the head that suggests they know something — and they’re not talking. Gotta that love Corty: the unofficial Mayor of the Town of Sherborn.
Meg The joy, vitality, and creativity that has come to characterize the Life Experience School require the involvement of everyone, but especially Meg who for 3 decades rises each morning with her husband Lewis to co-create the dream of a place we call the Life Experience School. With the care a mother bear gives her cubs, Meg looks after everyone as though they were family. And rarely seen without the School’s mascots, Chester the Collie, Kaia, the Golden Retriever and Meg’s love of animals is ever present. Like her daughter Abbey, her love of horses has created the School’s equestrian program which is centered at August Farm in Holliston. Meg is the touchstone for parents and state agencies as she and Ruthanne work collaboratively to meet the ever-changing needs of each person and animal at the School. She is, as everyone would agree, the heart and soul of the place as she has devoted well over half her life to keeping the dream alive with a level of devotion and love that serves as a halo around the place.
Jim When visitors arrive at either the Life Experience School or the Abbey Peace Memorial Park in Sherborn, they are likely, if they are lucky, to meet up with Jim who will give their first tour. Through Jimmy’s eyes, one not only gets an understanding of the people and activities that go on daily but also a political interpretation as well. He is a walking encyclopedia with a built-in GPS, standing 6’5″ with a gentleness as great as his size. Always there to drive people when they need to get places, make deliveries or assist in any way, Jimmy is central to the full and efficient operation of the School. Jim looks after everyone like a big, very big, brother who truly cares. He is ever so bright; a person of enormous integrity, genuine kindness and honesty who can claim the distinction of being the only person around that never gets lost when behind the wheel of an automobile. Need to drive somewhere and want directions, shortcuts or a heads-up on speed traps? Just ask Jim.
Phil For this guy, it’s sports, sports, sports and a little politics too. Ask him anything about the Celtics, Red Sox, Bruins, and Patriots and he’ll recite statistics with accuracy and give you a blow by blow account of the latest game. A few years ago he won the “Golden Ticket Give-A-Way” at the Boston Garden and has tickets to all the games that most people only dream of. Phil is the President of the Sigma Pi Chi frasority at the school and the general spokesperson at events. He is patriotic from head to toe and even sang the National Anthem at a Red Sox Game as well as at a conscientious objector’s Mass prior to the soldier turning himself in at Hanscom Air Force Base for going AWOL from the war in Iraq. Phil is a real presence around the place … he adds real pizazz to the day in unexpected ways.
Maureen aka Moe Every now and again the stars align and someone arrives at LES seemingly having traveled through Strawberry Fields and arrived on Abbey Road! Maureen loves the Beatles, is a huge fan of Boston sports and is animal lover through and through. She is one of those inspiring people who carries herself with dignity and can be counted on to “walk her talk”. Maureen has set up her own dog biscuit company at LES where she bakes Buddy’s Best Biscuits, named after one of three enormous family dogs she loves and cares for. Now that Kaia, our new Golden Retriever puppy is on the scene throughout the week, Maureen has to juggle baking with puppy care and all the other things going on at LES. One of the things she says she likes most about this “school of life” is that every day is different. Gotta get used to making room for something that just popped up in the course of the day, is the rule of thumb at LES. Maureen loves to sing, is genuinely interested in the lives of others and exemplifies a person who practices the Golden Rule. Thoughtful, engaging and eager to be involved in everything best describes this wonderful spirit that arrived out of the blue one day last summer. And what a lucky day it was for all of us at the Life Experience School.
Mikey If you’re looking for a good time, find time to be with this guy and attach your wagon to his when he shows up. There is something about Mikey, as he is affectionately called, that attracts everyone at the School. A lifelong member, he is a lover of animals, a film and music video producer and a visionary who attended Sacred Heart Univesity. Mikey has moved to Brooklyn to pursue his film career but returns to the Boston area often so we are apt to find him in our midst if we are lucky. Keeping up with Mikey is a must as a whirlwind of good-time-blessings are sure to follow.
Phyllis with Allison Creative, engaging and eager to bring everyone together, whether in the kitchen baking bread each Monday morning or doing special, high-interest activities throughout the week, Phyllis makes things happen. She worked with Sandra in her home where she provided TLC for both Sandra and her mom before their passing. Formerly the art teacher at the school back in the day on Brush Hill Road in Sherborn, Phyllis helps each person find creative expression … all they need to do is get near her. Her caring nature, refinement and deep appreciation for the therapeutic value of artwork make her the ideal staff to be with if you’re thinking creatively about your day. She’s an incredibly gifted teacher and caregiver who is a huge part of the heart and soul of this little improbable place on Lavender Street where LES is More?
Nancy Our Yoga Guru who arrives each Wednesday to lead the most wonderful classes on the floor of the living room of the school. Her knowledge, skill, and love for yoga and all things wholesome and healthy remind us to be patient and kind and mindful of our friends. She not only leads the Yoga classes but so loves us all that we feel blessed when she’s here. Nancy’s devotion to the individuals at the School and the principles of health and love and kindness upon which the school was founded are found in her very being. She is yoga personified for those fortunate enough to benefit from her teachings, guidance, and love. Below is the website for the studio in Holliston where she offers yoga classes to the public.
Yoga website: http://www.cormierselfdefense.com/yoga-garden.html
Mary Everyone loves the days when our bookkeeper comes to work in the back office in the recreation building. She always finds time to talk to everyone and find out what’s been happening since she was here last. Mary keeps a handle on all the bills and sees to it that the billion little receipts are in order and ready for the audit and maintains the books with utmost care. Rarely do you have a person so good with numbers, equally as good with people. Her uplifting personality and genuine interest in the lives of everyone makes her the ultimate, bookkeeper this side of heaven.
Ted Teacher, singer, tap dancer and all-around music man, Ted not only gives singing lessons to Lizzy and tunes Jeff’s guitar, he tap dances like Mr. Bojangles himself. When it comes to performances and special events, Ted adds those awesome personal elements with our students that help everyone appreciate their musical talents and gifts which everyone has … but just need nurturing. He and his wife Pamela are awesome performers and dear friends of the School and the projects of the Peace Abbey.
Charlie The 2nd youngest member of the Life Experience School could show up at any moment like a burst of sunlight, reminding us of what being five is like. For all who know him, it’s clear to see Charlie’s alter ego is Spiderman. The son of Christopher and Zuzana, this little guy could win a Jeopardy “Name that Dinosaur Contest” hands-down. He loves everyone at LES and his visits are welcomed with open arms. Like his daddy Chris, he’ll no doubt learn to be ornery from what the gang at school teaches him — especially Bobby. What goes around, comes around. Charlie and his sister Sadie are the third generation of Randas at LES. We’ve always had children and babies interwoven into the LES family. Such a blessing!
Abbey Like her two brothers Chris and Mikey, Abbey has been a part of the Life Experience School since her birth as she grew up with the students as her caretakers and friends. A graduate of the University of Delaware, Abbey’s love of horses led her to become co-captain of the equestrian team and assistant riding instructor here. Abbey does overnights with the girls at the Peace Abbey Cottage and enjoys finding time to pitch in at the School which everyone looks forward to. Her fun-loving style of relating to everyone is contagious, so needless to say, everyone loves it when Abbey walks through the door. Several of the members went to the hospital to see her when she was born, then bottle fed her and cared for her like a member of the family. She and Finn live in South Boston with Carl their rescue lab who keeps them busy.
Lewis The message of peace and social activism of the sixties and the lives Robert Kennedy and Martin Luther King, Jr. continue to motivate Lewis’ thinking and way of doing things. The words of RFK during the ’68 presidential campaign sum up his modus operandi – “Some men see things as they are and say why. I dream things that never were and say why not.” Lewis can be found at the School, the Abbey Peace Memorial Park in Sherborn or working in the new Peace Room at the University of Massachusetts Boston dreaming up projects that have never been done before. Spend the day with Lewis and you’ll cover more ground and idea territory than you’re normally accustomed to. With Meg, he rises each morning with The Life Experience School dream on his mind. He is in the midst of writing a book about his 44-year journey entitled, It Was Just A Dream Some of Us Had. And the dream lives on …. (Reflections on the Tao by Kate Marshall who created the documentary below.)